Productivity Writing Prompts

How Digital Writers Can Train Their Brain for Flow and Publish 10X Faster

A simple (but powerful) ritual to help digital writers consistently drop into flow — and create a non-distracted writing life

I have been chasing writing flow for 20 years.

Flow is that magic state in which you are fully immersed in writing, you forget all time, and you work with ultra focus.

I’ve found that flow also extremely hard to get — especially when you write on the internet. It’s a constant battle against distractions. Here’s what happens to me regularly: I start start writing a blog but my eyes wander to the open browser tabs. Then, emails pop up, a notification pings, an important DM comes in.

Constant distraction can easily lead you into overwhelm and, in my case, even burnout.

When I realised that most of my “writing” time at the laptop was wasted, I studied how to become more distraction-resilient (yes, some of that research was procrastination, but I learned something vital!):

  • I read scientific research on flow state, deep work, and habit formation
  • I listened to podcasts on brain science
  • I asked bestselling authors like Dr Benjamin Hardy how they focus
  • I tried and tested tricks and hacks with hundreds of writers who I coach to write their books

What I learned was baffling.

Because the solution doesn’t lie in what you do while you’re writing. It’s about what you do before you start.

To get consistent flow, you need a pre-writing ritual to signal to yourself that it’s writing time — so that distractions can’t wriggle their way in. I call it a Flow Ritual. If you apply it correctly, it helps you to get into the deep work zone on demand.

Here’s how to build your Flow Ritual.

Step 1: Pick one thing that helps your MIND to focus

First, we tackle your distracted mind. It needs a clear trigger to signal that it’s focus time.

Triggers are important because they reduce the need for willpower (which quickly runs out and leaves you vulnerable to distractions), as Professor Wendy Wood explains in Good Habits, Bad Habits. Combining this insight with flow research in Steven Kotler’s The Art of Impossible, I learned that some triggers are better than others for writers.

Here are the 5 flow triggers I’ve tried (and my clients tested them as well):

  • Listen to binaural beats (I use this playlist)
  • Short meditation (here’s an 8min meditation I love)
  • Favourite scented candle / essential oil (some swear by rosemary)
  • Write down a goal and set a timer
  • Clean up your desk

Your turn — which of these might appeals to you?

Here are a few examples. During a recent workshop, an academic writer said she will wipe down the whiteboard above her desk — so that her mind is not troubled by to do lists in her eyesight. I know a more spiritual writer who mediates and then visualises her inner guides coming to her, sending her love and light so she gets some mental space to write.

The idea is always the same: Anything that helps your mind let go of the worry, the to do lists, the scatterbrain — and helps you make space to move into focus/

Pick one thing for the mind, write it down, and go to step 2.

Step 2: Pick 1 thing that helps your BODY relax

I made a crucial mistake for years: I focused solely on my mind to prepare for writing, and ignored my body.

I’d sit at my desk for hours trying to force myself to write — and developed headaches, neck tension, and back pain. This distracted me from writing and sometimes stopped me from even sitting down at the desk. I only understood the consequences of ignoring my body when I read Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the ScoreThe body stores stress, trauma, and even worry. When your body is stressed out and tense, your mind won’t be able to focus

I didn’t understand this link for the longest time. But once I knew, I radically changed the Flow Ritual tool.

Let’s add one thing for your body.

Here’s a list of 5 activities that work for many writers I know:

  • Breath work (simplest version: take 3 deep breaths; or try double-inhale breaths)
  • Yoga, stretches or light exercise (e.g. this 5-min yoga stretch)
  • A walk in nature
  • Shaking your arms and legs to release tension
  • Taking a hot shower

Which of these appeals to you? Is there something else that you know helps your body release tension?

Fore example, a writer replied on Twitter/X that he does three push-ups before he writes. Many writers swear by taking hot showers (sometimes several times a day) to reset their body. I personally roll my shoulders take three breaths.

What one thing you pick to help your body to expect flow? Write it down; then move to the next (and most important) step!

Step 3: Stick them together into a Flow Ritual

Finally, you take your one thing for the mind, and one for the body, and put them together to create your Flow Ritual.

That means a flow ritual typically has two components. e.g.

  • Take a walk in nature > then listen to Binaural Beats for 5 minutes.
  • Do three push-ups > then meditate for 2 minutes.
  • Put on binaural beats > then make your favourite cup of tea to inhale the scent and enjoy the hot liquid running down your throat.

Step 4: Apply your ritual each time before you write

Do your ritual each time before you start writing. Yes, each time, otherwise you won’t form a habit or train your brain or body for regular flow.

That means, if you write 3x90min per day, you do this ritual three times (see how the shower can easily get out of hand…?).

Why is repetition so important?

Because the more often you do it, the more you’re creating an automated system that gives you extreme flow fast. The internet might still be distracting. But you’ll soon notice that you show up at the desk fully present, ready to immerse yourself in writing.

Your mind and body are primed for flow.

Avoid these mistakes

The hardest bit is starting. To make it easier:

  • Write your Flow Ritual on a post-it or make it your desktop background so you see it before you sit down to write.
  • Don’t try to do too many things in your ritual. One for the body, one for the mind is enough.
  • Don’t try something different every day. Stick with your two chosen steps for a week and only then assess if you might have to adjust.

Once I got over the initial hurdle to establish my ritual, I enjoyed regular writing flow.

But I did a few mistakes later on that stopped my momentum.

  • I accidentally trained myself for distraction. I enjoyed my ritual so much that I used it (binaural beats music) for emails and admin, too. I realised this a few days in when I couldn’t focus on writing, and started from scratch with a new playlist. The lesson: Only use your ritual before writing!
  • I rushed it. I would squeeze my ritual into a few ‘token’ seconds, going through the motions. My ritual became chore; something to be ticked off. And I stopped experiencing flow. The trick is to do your ritual with intention and give it the space it deserves.

The way you do your flow ritual matters.

The ritual is not just a quick hack. It’s a way of living. The intentionality you use for your ritual is exactly the same dedication you want for flow writing.

A non-distracted writing life

After years of frustration, I realised that the problem was never the internet, or other distractions.

I was not intentionally moving into the space of flow. Now, the Flow Ritual helps me do just that.

Hit reply and let me know which ritual you picked.

Create your Flow Ritual with this easy 2-step pdf template.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

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